The question that causes much angst among nurses when they are renewing their license is Question #5, which states:
“Since you last renewed, have you ever been terminated, reprimanded, disciplined, or demoted in the scope of your practice as a Nurse or as another health care professional?”
This question is difficult because there is a lot of gray area. Let’s start with the easy answers. If you were terminated from a job, then you need to answer “yes” and provide an explanation. Even if the termination was not because of “fault”, you need to provide that information. It may be as simple as “I was hired for a research project and the funding for the project was not renewed”. If “fault” was involved, even if you think it was unfair, you are required to provide an explanation. You may want to hire an attorney prior to providing this explanation as it is likely that you will be expected to appear before the Board to discuss your explanation and the situation.
Sometimes, a nurse will resign to avoid being fired. However, you will need to provide that information and an explanation. Remember that your employer also has a responsibility to report your termination for cause to the Board. It is very likely that the Board or the Attorney General’s office will have their version of the situation.
The real gray area comes with the situations where you were not fired but were reprimanded or disciplined. When this is a question, I strongly suggest that you discuss it with an attorney so that all of the facts concerning this matter can be understood. The attorney can also help you craft an answer if that it necessary. One thing to consider is the formality of the reprimand or discipline. Was it in writing? If it is part of your employee file, then it probably needs to be reported. If it was part of the normal course of your employment such as a summary of items to concentrate on as you come off of orientation, then it probably does not need to be reported even if it is in writing. If it appears on your evaluation as something that needs to be worked on over the next year, it probably does not need to be reported even though it is in writing. However, if it is an incident that a supervisor put in writing specifically, then it probably needs to be reported. If it is a written warning, then it probably should be reported at renewal.
If the Board requests that you appear to explain a positive answer, it is to your benefit to hire an attorney who is knowledgeable in this area. Based on your appearance, the Board may renew your license, not renew your license or ask for your consent to place you on probation.
In making these decisions, I would urge you to meet with an attorney who understands both the importance of the error and regularly represents nurses before the Board. These questions are not cut and dried and you need an attorney who understands both the dynamics of the nursing profession and the law.